Carrot Mushroom Barley Stew

Or, Mushroom Carrot Barley Stew. Or even Barley Stew with carrots and mushrooms.  Also includes kale, carrots, onions and ginger.

My Christmas Present!

Earlier this week, I tweeted about prepping for a pork stew in the slow cooker. I cut the veggies and combined things in plastic containers so that come morning, Chris could just toss things in, season the pork and set the crockpot on low. I would get home from work around 5 pm which would be the right time to take the pork out and shred it then serve.

It all worked perfectly. But.  But.

It was not tasty. Not at all.

Fatty/greasy broth and you could barely taste the aromatics (allspice and thyme plus garlic and ginger). This recipe was one of several I’d pulled from a copy of Food Network TV magazine. Last Sunday I’d made a chicken chili, using a recipe in an advertisement for crockpots and it was delicious. In fact, I’m going to make it again this week since my slow cooker is small and I had to halve the original recipe so I have extra everything.

But this pork stew was not good. We tried adding salt/pepper. We tried adding various acids to cut the fatty taste. I added fresh herbs. Nope, nada, nothing. I put the whole thing in the fridge as we were going to the movies. Now, its sitting in there, hogging my slow cooker insert with a not very appetizing layer of congealed fat on top. Mocking me.

So…. it was with great apprehension that I went forward with my plan to make this Barley stew tonight. I have been itching to use my new Le Creuset pot, I had all the ingredients and no real purpose for the shiitake mushrooms than this recipe. It was time to bite the bullet.

Now, I’m going to have to make a third recipe from the magazine to break the tie.

This soup was fantastic.

It smelled amazing in the pot, especially when I was toasting the barley and mushrooms.

This smelled divine!

The carrot added some sweetness which was balanced by the earthy mushrooms and just slightly bitter kale. This will defiinitely go on the repeat list.

Carrot-Mushroom Barley Soup

Ingredients

2 cups carrot juice
10 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and reserved, caps sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup instant barley
1 medium onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, including leaves, chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
4 medium carrots, cut in to 1/2 inch pieces
4 cups kale or mustard greens, leaves torn
1 tablespoon grated ginger
salt & pepper

Directions

1. Bring carrot juice, 3 cups water and mushrooms stems to a boil in a saucepan

2. Heat olive oil and two tablespoons butter in large pot over medium heat. Add mushrooms and barley, stirring to coat. Cook approximately 5 minutes, until barley is toasted.

3. Add onion, celery and rosemary, season with salt and pepper. Cook until onions are translucent, about 2 minutes.

4. Add carrots and cook 2 more minutes.

5. Increase heat to high and add half of carrot juice, omitting mushroom stems. Bring to a boil and cook until most of liquid is absorbed, about 6 minutes.

6. Add remaining carrot juice, kale and ginger, stirring to combine. Cook until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.

7. Stir in remaining two tablespoons butter.

8. Serve!

Notes: Everything took longer than listed but that could just be me being conservative and trying to work out the best temp for my new cast-iron pot.

I added more rosemary, probably doubling to 1/2 teaspoon. I still didn’t notice it being strong in the end product but if you don’t like rosemary, stick with the original.

The recipe indicates this makes 4 servings at 333 calories each. I can’t imagine eating a full one-quarter of the pot-full of soup. Both Chris and I had big bowls and I still divided the rest up in to 3 more containers which felt like a lot of food per person. I also question the nutrition analysis based on this have 4 tablespoons of butter and two of olive oil.

Final Product- Look at those colors!

Ah-ha, I ran this recipe through Nutrition Data’s analyzer and it came back as 495 calories per serving, assuming we divide the total by 4. Thus, the calories listed at 333 are probably right for the size of serving I had and I would call the “serves 4” an error.

This was a great first dish for the Le Creuset- next up will have to be something from the newly arrived Art of French Cooking since Julie & Julia inspired the purchase to begin with.

**Full disclosure: those last two pictures are Photoshopped. I was playing with Actions and that last one, Sunshine, perfectly described how this soup stew tasted to me. Also, it counteracts the high noise levels becuase I was shooting in horrible light and had to boost the ISO.

Rice Pilaf the Geek Way

Standing in line at Target the other day, I noticed the Food Network magazine. Apparently it comes out on a regular basis but I’ve never noticed it before. This issue is the Thanksgiving galore edition with 50 versions of mashed potatoes. Since I’m probably hosting Turkey Day again this year, I need to start working on my meal plan so I picked it up, just $4 for the issue.

I’ve folded over 3 or 4 pages for the future but decided I wanted to make Alton Brown’s rice pilaf as soon as possible. Alton Brown is my hero. His shows are the perfect combination of silly props, real science and cooking (which is, after all, a science as well as an art). I learn things on his show that can be applied far beyond the one or two recipes he’s making. It dawned on me today that I will be able to watch the new season, now that we have returned to the world of cable (TV and internet).  I hate the bill but I’ll survive, I guess.

 PA188340The ingredients in the Rice Pilaf a la Alton are nothing unusual: onions, red pepper, rice, peas. Its the method that brings out the geek. Because all we get from the magazine is the directions, I don’t know exactly why Alton chose this method. I think I’d need his book, which I sadly do not own at the present time. There is a second version of the recipe at the Food Network website but its not a 1-dish version which is much nicer, clean-up wise.

 

 

Ingredients
1 medium onion, small dice
1 red bell pepper, small dice
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups long grain rice
2 bay leaves
1 1inx2in slice of orange peel
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
pinch of saffron in 1/4 cup hot water
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 1/2 teaspoons salt plus 2 pinches
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup shelled pistachios, chopped

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 350.

In large saucier, or in my case the Everyday Pan, melt butter over medium heat (must be an oven-okay pan with a lid). Add onion and pepper with 2 pinches of salt, stir to coat. Reduce heat to low and sweat vegetables until onion is translucent but not browning, 3-5 minutes.  Return heat to medium and add rice to pan. Stir constantly for 3-4 minutes until rice is coated and nutty aroma begins to waft through the kitchen.  Add broth, saffron with water, orange peel, bay leaves and 1 1/2 tsp of salt. Bring to a boil.

Here is where it gets geek: Thoroughly wet a large kitchen towel. Turn off the heat. Sprinkle the peas over the top of the rice.  Lay towel over the pan then place the lid on. Wrap the ends of the towel up over the lid and place the whole thing in the oven.

Bake 15 minutes. Remove from oven and keep covered for an additional 15 minutes.

 

PA188346

Remove lid/towel and remove orange peel and 2 bay leaves. Transfer to serving dish, fluff with fork and sprinkle raisins and pistachios over the top. Serve family style in the center of the table.


 

I only transferred about 1/2 to a serving dish since there were just 3 of us (the recipe serves 6, generously). The other reason I didn’t fancy up the whole thing was due to some disappointing results. Mostly in the center of the pan, there were pockets of rice which were not cooked. Really not cooked- still crunchy. I am all for al dente but some of the grains were nearly raw. I believe the error lies in the amount of cooking liquid and was all my fault. I added some wine to the pan before the aromatics and broth. In the end, I shorted the broth slightly and should not have. Every bit of liquid was absorbed in the stated cooking timess so I think, but cannot be sure, that if I’d put a little more broth in, we’d have been fine.

Jon didn’t say anything and Chris didn’t seem to mind: both went back for seconds. I believe I avoided most of the really uncooked bits, in any event.

Other than that issue, the pilaf was great. Nicely flavored without overpowering or even competing with the main dish (grilled pork in a chimichurri marinade in this case). I have noticed a number of disappointed reviews around the ‘net complaining of a lack of flavor. I would call this delicate but it definitely had flavor. While I do like vampire-repelling ultimate garlic dishes, I can also appreciate something a little more subtle too.


Thanks to the dedication (obsession) of a particular fan of Good Eats*, I was able to learn the why of cooking this rice in the oven. The oven, with its highly controllable temperature, is most like a rice cooker; a rice cooker doesn’t work too well for pilafs though as you must first saute your rice and optional flavorings in a pan before adding the liquid.

On the subject of Good Eats, the new episodes are Monday nights at 8pm. Rejoice, I have cable and can watch them!! Except, oh crap, one of the (only) two shows I watch regularly is also on at 8pm Mondays. We may have to upgrade to the DVR package.

*If you go, the episode is called Power to the Pilaf, full transcipt available and even some YouTube.